Manno: A woman worthy of her name

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Manno: A woman worthy of her name

On Wednesday, Pat Summitt stepped down as head coach at the University of Tennessee at the age of 59, less than a year after being diagnosed with early onset dementia. Comcast SportsNet's Carolyn Manno has a personal reflection of the woman who shaped the face of modern women's collegiate basketball.

By Carolyn Manno
Comcast SportsNet

Let's start with the name, Summitt, a fitting one for a woman who, for over the last 38 years as the head coach and mastermind behind the groundbreaking University of Tennessee women's basketball program, has worked tirelessly to reach the pinnacle of the collegiate coaching landscape.

The first and only time I saw Pat Summitt in person started around 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 5, 2008. I was working as a reporter and camera (wo)man in South Bend, Indiana. Candace Parker and the Lady Vols were in town to play the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish. As the game tipped off, in front of the fourth sellout crowd in the history of Notre Dame women's basketball, I watched Summitt's piercing blue eyes meticulously follow her players as they moved from one baseline to the other. Through the safety of my camera lens, I zoomed closer to her face during a timeout before halftime. Tennessee had used a 22-2 run midway through the first half to open a 30-10 lead. Summitt's expression in the huddle suggested they were the ones down 20.

Following her 19th straight win over the Irish -- who should have lost by TKO minutes into the second half -- Summitt made her way to the press room.

As she sat down at the table in front of me, her presence was so intimidating that I felt a sudden urge to ease out the door to the safety of my car. But my pangs of anxiety subsided when she started speaking. For as ferocious as she was on the court, Summitt was as genuine and graceful off of it. In her southern drawl, she warmly answered questions and complimented the efforts of the team she had never lost to -- and had been beating by an average margin of 23 points.

I was only in her presence for a day, and really only for a few minutes. But I can understand why the majority of the 161 women who have played for her, and graduated under her, sing her praises.

In nearly four decades, Pat Summitt never had a season with a losing record. As great a coach as she was, though, those who know her the best say her crowning achievement is her 21-year-old son Tyler, who grew up following his mother around the basketball court that now bears her name.

Former players remember carting Tyler around on their shoulders after winning national titles. Now it is his 59-year-old mother who will need to borrow his shoulder to lean on, as she continues to battle an opponent far tougher than any she's ever faced.

"The thing my mom always taught me is to put the team before yourself. She really felt like this was the best thing for the Lady Vol program," Tyler said at his mother's retirement press conference Thursday -- the same day he officially accepted his first job. After graduating next month, Tyler Summitt will become an assistant coach with the Marquette women's basketball team.

A celebratory day instead felt ruthlessly ironic.

Early-onset Alzheimer's is the most savage of thieves. It will mercilessly pillage Summitt's brain without rest until it has stolen virtually every memory that has been engrained there over a 38-year head coaching career . . . and a lifetime.

Eventually, the seven-time National Coach of the year will likely not be able to remember a single championship.

She may not be able to recall even one of her 1,098 wins.

Or even her son's name.

Alzheimer's winning percentage is a perfect 1.000.

But the thousands who have called her an influence, the hundreds who have called her a coach, and the one who still calls her "Mom" will never forget her.

"It has been a privilege," the Hall of Famer said Thursday while seated behind a press conference microphone to announce her retirement from the game she revolutionized.

The privilege, Coach, has been ours.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Celtics hold on to lead after Kings rally back

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics take a slim 47-46 lead into the half over Sacramento, a team they have dominated at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics are looking to extend their winning streak at home over the Kings to nine in a row with a victory tonight. 

But the Kings are not going to go down easily, as they rallied back from a 13-point deficit in the first quarter. 

After Boston went ahead 29-19, the Kings scored the final 10 points of the quarter to tie it at 29. 

Sacramento took a couple of brief leads in the second, only for the Celtics to get a clutch shot or a timely stop defensively. 

The final points of the half came on a put-back basket by Al Horford which gave Boston a one-point lead that would serve as the margin going into the half. 

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Friday’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

After taking just five shots in Wednesday’s loss to Detroit, Horford had as many in the first six minutes. He would finish the half with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting which included a pair of three-pointers.

DeMarcus Cousins

He had a horrible first half shooting the ball, but there was no denying Cousins’ presence and impact on the game. Despite missing six of his nine shot attempts he still led them with nine points and five rebounds.

 

STUDS

Avery Bradley

He looked a lot more like the Avery Bradley we’ve seen most of this season, and not the one who was a non-factor for most of Wednesday’s loss to Detroit. At the half he had nine points and four rebounds.

Matt Barnes

The oldest player on the floor certainly didn’t look past his prime. The 36-year-old small forward came off the Kings bench to score six points along with grabbing eight rebounds. 

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

A 19.6 points per game scorer this season, Gay couldn’t get into any kind of flow or rhythm offensively. At the half, he had four points on 2-for-8 shooting which included him missing all four of his three-pointers.

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

Don't expect to see Celtics shy away from 3-pointers

BOSTON – There were a bunch of numbers from Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday that stood out. 

Among the eye-grabbing stats was the fact that the Celtics had taken 42 3s (with 15 makes), an unusually high number of attempts that we may see matched or even surpassed tonight against the Sacramento Kings. 

Don’t count head coach Brad Stevens among those surprised to see the Celtics attempt a lot of three-pointers. 

Last season the Celtics took 26.1 three-pointers per game which ranked 11th in the NBA. 

This season they’re up to 31.2 three-pointers attempted and 11.3 made which both rank fifth in the NBA. 

You can count Kelly Olynyk among the Celtics pleased with the team's increased emphasis on shooting 3s. 

The 7-foot led the NBA in shooting percentage (.405) on 3s taken last season.

"We play a lot of spread offense with four shooters, four perimeter guys," Olynyk, who is shooting 38.1 percent on 3s this season, told CSNNE.com. "We're trying to make teams shrink their defense and spray out and hopefully make shots. You're making extra passes, giving up good ones for great ones. And we have some pretty good shooters on our team. That's the way we're trying to play. It's just a matter of us making shots."

And the Celtics face a Kings team ranks among the NBA’s worst at limiting 3-point attempts with Sacramento opponents averaging 28.4 three-pointers taken per game which ranks 25th in the league. 

One of Stevens’ main points about three-pointers is while it’s an important shot for them, they need to be the right shot, the right basketball play at the right time. 

And when asked about the 42 attempts against the Pistons, he was quick to acknowledge those were for the most part the right shots to be taken. 

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day we want lay-ups. And if we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. If the defense shrinks in, you’re able to touch the paint and kick out. Two of our last three games, maybe three of the last four, two-thirds of our possessions we touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s our objective. We’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot. We’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate. And we haven’t scored in transition. To be able to be sitting where we are offensively, a big reason is because we space the floor.”